Sunday, June 23, 2013

TFA - the villan, the savior, the man-made organization

As you may know, I am an incoming Teach For America (TFA) Corps member this year. For many people this means very little, other than I will be a teacher and that is cool.

Other folks, however think and speak differently about the organization.

The Villan

I have read enough anti-Teach For America arguments to know that there are embedded within the diatribes and finger-pointing some good points. However there are accusation about the short training time TFA teachers have over the summer, griping against fast turnover, complaining about how TFA is a capitalist plot to privatize education, and blatant rude generalizations that remind me of anti-mormon literature from the 1800s.

What I realized yet again?

The Savior

On the other hand, I have heard about some folks who talk as if TFA is the answer to many (if not all) problems. It is probably these kind of comments that fuel the "villan" response in people. I know I would get pretty angry if I had been teaching in a classroom for 20 years and then some kid who has never taught in his or her life walks in and says something like, "You should do your teaching my way, because I am TFA!" Thats just . . . dumb. Along this vein, I shudder to think that there could be some TFA corps members here because it is just a job and offers a nice launch pad into business etc.

Man-Made Organization That Just Wants to Do a Good Job and Actually Does Do a Pretty Good Job

Obviously the title of this little section will never be popular or cool because it is moderate and recognizes reality. The fact is that TFA is not a person, it isn't even a monster or a super hero. Teach For America is an organization full of all kinds of people. You might not believe it is true, but then again you might not believe there is such thing as a thoughtful male, a smart blonde, a Christ-loving Mormon, a kind Arab, a corrupt American, a school full of teachers cheating for their students, and all sorts of other facts that exist despite our stereo types and logical fallacies.

As educators we should and must be better than this.

I am proud to be a part of an organization where the corp member who drives this car . . . .

can proudly work and learn with the corp member who wrote this piece about private education.

Anyway, got to get ready for another week of learning, sweat, and tears.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

MOOCs + cooking = joyful times

MOOCs . . . Wha?

We live in the information age where it seems like almost every week there is an announcement about how some field or industry is being revolutionized by technology. Education has not escaped the craze. The idea of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) has been buzzing for quite some time now, but is definitely not settled down into a clear direction. The basic idea is this: a professor can start a class online, anyone in the world can join it, and everyone is happy. No, it doesn't count towards college credit (though there are many who are trying to find ways to build credibility around these open resources), but yes - you can learn something. No, it might not be what you think education is, but yes it doesn't cost a cent.

My Experience - Child Nutrition and Cooking

Kas and I decided to take a class on Coursera focused on cooking and helping children eat healthy. It wasn't super intense (about 1-2 hour commitment each week for 5 weeks) and it was really fun to do together.

Here is the intro to the class:

I really enjoyed how simple it was. We watched a few 2-5 minute videos, and then looked up our assignment. There were small and simple quizzes for each lecture, and then we had to cook something. Here are some things we made.

Artichoke Rice Salad

Chicken Fajitas 
Home Made Chicken Nuggets

Tasty Dish of Veggies

I learned some great things. For example, if you want to have good flavor and tasty food - your kitchen should have lemon, garlic, salt, sugar, onion, and olive oil. Those 6 things can do wonders to just about anything. We learned stuff, we ate good food, and generally had a great experience.

Joyful Times Growing Your Brain and Learning New Things

What is the point in taking a class if you don't get any credit? Well, that is the wrong question sometimes. For Kas and I this MOOC was an opportunity to bond closer together, to learn more about healthy eating, and to just become better educated individuals. Don't we look happy??!!

You too can grow your brain, and learn a vast amount of things for free by simply looking up courses on sites such as Coursera and Udacity or even BYU's Instructional Technology Department. Subjects range from a whole host of things such as College Algebra to The History of Rock and Roll to How to use YouTube in the classroom. If we teach our children to learn to love learning, not just get degrees and letter grades, than perhaps tools like MOOCs will enable them to learn anything or become anyone the want!

MOOCs may or may not be revolutionizing education, but they are certainly providing amazing learning opportunities for the small percent of people who not only sign up for them, but who stick through till the end.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Comics and Learning

This year's theme/focus at Denver's Comic Con was all about using comics in the classroom. I had the fortune of attending one day of the Con and started to realize how much I have been missing! Peter's Blog has been my sole source of connecting comics and the classroom, but attending the Con helped me realize that I can and should do so much more.

Not only did I have lots of fun meeting and watching people who are obsessed with comics and the heroes thereof, but I attended a really neat panel about engaging Native American youth in education through comics. The author of the SuperIndian comics was there in addition to some other exciting folks. Here is some of the contact information where you can learn more about what they talked about and what they are doing:

on Twitter @sheyahshe @royboney @arigonstarr @leefrancisIV and @inccomics

It makes sense to me. Kids love comics. Comics are an important form of storytelling that often use words. Reading cool stories requires a certain level of literacy. So, if this chain of thought is accurate, shouldn't comics be wonderful and excellent resources for teaching specific literacy skills?  Also, might not comics be a powerful resource in helping students create and understand their own identity and culture?